A scientifically beautiful smile requires a well-balanced ratio of teeth and gum display. If your smile shows more gum than teeth, this is what we call a ‘gummy smile.’ A gummy smile essentially draws attention to your gums, rather than your teeth, which can make teeth appear smaller or unfinished.
Studies have been performed on dentists, plastic surgeons, dermatologists and regular folk to assess smiles. Generally, everyone agreed that 2mm or less of gum tissue showing was the level where most participants thought the smile looked normal. Participants started noticing the gum tissue at 3-4 mm, and thinking that too much gum tissue was showing at more than 4 mm.
Doctors who specialize in cosmetic procedures estimate that about 14% of women and 7 % of men have excessive gingival exposure when smiling. This could be due to the following:
- short teeth or excessively thick gum tissue.
- hyper-mobile lips or short lips.
- long protruding upper jaw bone or
- a combination of any of the above reasons.
Short teeth or unreasonably thick gum tissue can be removed or lessened during our gum recontouring procedure. These ‘gummy’ smiles are corrected without lengthy surgery or pain and the healing process following gum recontouring treatment is usually far less painful and quicker than traditional surgery.
When the hypermobile lips are the cause of the ‘gummy’ smile, doctors traditionally perform surgery to sever the muscles that elevate the upper lip so it can no longer rise unusually high when you smile.
In extreme cases, they might perform orthognathic jaw surgery, which repositions the upper jaw if it sticks out too much. However, this can be complicated and often require braces which can take up to two years to complete.
With laser as a practical option, patients are now opting to choose this route to treat hypermobile lips or excessive protruding upper jaw bone.
Botox has been a contender for hypermobile lip treatment with dentists injecting Botox into the upper lip’s ‘elevator’ muscles. The injection paralyzes the muscles, inhibiting contraction of the upper lip when smiling to prevent the gummy smile.
A March 2014 study in Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that off-label use of Botox was a safe and effective procedure for treating a gummy smile, albeit one that lasts only three to four months for the average patient. This study also confirmed the findings of an earlier report in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
At Orchard Scotts Dental, we emphasize proper diagnosis of the ‘gummy’ smile problem and offer the appropriate treatment options which include Laser Gum Recontouring as well as Botox.